Students are tired of your ‘thoughts and prayers’


The following is the opinion and analysis of the writer:

On Monday, three students and three adults were shot and killed at The Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee. In February, three students were killed and five suffered critical injuries during a mass shooting at Michigan State University. In November, three students were killed and two were injured at the University of Virginia. The list goes on and on, with over 376 school shootings documented since 1999.

With every shooting, students of all ages become increasingly desensitized to this epidemic of gun violence. Lockdown drills are a monthly pastime, school safety plans have become controversial PDFs that are skimmed occasionally by administrators and school boards, and lawmakers’ social media managers are ready at a moment’s notice to release “thoughts and prayers” statements.

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We need to stop normalizing school shootings. No student should have to enter their classroom in the morning knowing that they might leave in a body bag. No parent should have to say their final goodbyes “just in case” when they put their child on the school bus. While parents used to worry about their kids getting bullied or teased, they now fear gun violence — now the leading cause of death for American children.

Some parents have organized on behalf of their children, whether potential victims or former victims. Some students have organized on behalf of themselves, their classmates, and their teachers. Nevertheless, our lawmakers have failed to put forth any real solutions. The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (2022) was great, but mass shootings kept happening. The Luke and Alex School Safety Act (2022) created a website full of helpful resources, but school shootings are still a reality.

These legislative compromises are a plain and simple effect of lobbying. The National Rifle Association (NRA) contributes millions of dollars to right-wing campaigns and then halts gun safety measures like an assault rifle ban. Republican campaigns have weaponized the Second Amendment, calling candidates in favor of gun control anti-Constitution. Gun manufacturers too have lobbied hard enough to prevent liability for shootings done with weapons they market and sell.

While inaction is a common theme right now, some legislators are acting to give more rights to guns. In Arizona, Rep. Austin Smith put forth HB2394, which would prohibit taxes on firearms and ammunition. In Washington, D.C., Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) responded to the Nashville shooting by calling proposed assault weapons bans “tired talking points.”

Sure enough, students have lost faith in the government’s ability to prevent school shootings. Time and time again, nothing has changed, and students go on with a sense of defeat. Life-saving gun control measures should be a common goal rather than a political issue, but until then, tragic headlines will continue to run and students will keep suffering.

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Bradley Reece is executive director at Engaged Arizona, the director of finance at Keep Arizona Blue Student Coalition, and a student at the University of Arizona. Find him on Twitter at @BradleyDReece.

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